Thalassemia – diagnosis in 5 seconds or less

We family physicians don't know everything … and if we knew it once .. we may have forgotten.  Clincial problems that we don't see often will cause us to make referrals to specialists – and this teamwork is often a good model for patient care.  Yesterday's call to a local pediatric hematologist reminded me of a simple formula I learned in medical school, but hadn't used in 10 years. 

Mentzer Index = MCV/RBC
Ratio < 13 then the patient most likely has Thalassemia
Ratio >13 then the patient most likely has iron deficiency anemia

Though we often look at a low h/h and low MCV and think iron deficiency right away … recall that ferretin is a better measure of iron deficiency … and the Mentzer Index can always help us to identify Thalassemia.  Remind me of this in 2014 …